Pete Rizzo: I’m just going to get this out of the way: I should be a Ty Segall fan, but I’m not. The man’s output is staggering enough to draw Lil’ Wayne comparisons. Most of what I’ve heard is worthy of his current underground stoner-rock demigod status.
The thing with his manic album writing approach, though, is I need to feel like its building to something; that no matter what Segall puts out, his big game-changing album, has to be – must be – around the corner.
We may one day get Segall’s versions of Weezy’s The Carter II and III, and with Sleeper, I’m a little more convinced this will actually happen.
The worst of these songs are straight-up minstrel fare. The best like “The Man Man” and “The West” are dirty Oasis gems. If you think the Oasis comparison is out of line, check the lyrics of “She Don’t Care” and “Crazy.” Pretty basic classic rock flotsam.
The thing that sets Sleeper apart is that it lets Segall’s ear for melody shine through. The man can write a tune, but usually that’s only discernible above a megaton of sludge. Here it’s all Segall thumbing psychedelic odes to ’60s dope pop, and we’re better for it.
But there’s more to the album than that, it feels like it covers a lot of ground. The subtle switches in texture really go a long way.
The prevailing issue I have with Segall, even after Sleeper is still personal. He comes so close to something I should love that his failure to cross the line is disappointing. He’s basically Steve McNair for me, perpetually stalled on the one yard line.
Compared to his peers he isn’t Wavves, a band that almost drowns in their connections to stoner rock. Segall is the trusty, but dirty, double-bubbler to Wavves’ weed-leafed neon bong. Only one of those is going to stick with you after college.
Nick Bush: Call it ‘artistic growth’ or whatever the hell you want, but this album still leaves me feeling apathetic compared to Segall’s earlier work. To some extent, he’s always been a bit hit-or-miss with his songs, but I admit was instantly disappointed when I realized how quiet Sleeper turned out, because it negated Segall’s greatest asset: The frantic energy of his live band that dominates so much of his earlier recorded work. Counter-intuitively, the utter simplicity of his songs seem a hell of a lot easier to pull off with feedback-drenched, up-tempo garage rock than on this largely-solo acoustic album.
In some ways you could say he’s following in the footsteps of fellow neo-fuzz punkers The Men, who took a folky, country western detour with the past year with their albums “Open Your Heart” and “New Moon.” But, unlike The Men’s foray into the acoustic field, which focused on adding textures and variability to their albums, Segall seems more interested in musical subtraction – most notably the rest of his band. His songwriting structure remains close to his past work, but without his band’s characteristic energy, some the tracks can drag a bit. And, is it strange that for some reason I kept hearing hints of Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” at various points during the record?
“Crazy” stands out as a controlled acoustic romp, which gets credit for being stuck in my head much longer than I would have expected. With Segall’s quivering vocals taking on a Kinks-esque, Village Green-era vibe, the creepy minimalism plays to his advantage here. It’s as if he decided to flip his old dynamics: Bored with quiet-loud-quiet and loud-louder-loud of his previous albums, he seems content with trying the soft-softer-soft formula on Sleeper.
“The Man Man” is another excellent track, sounding a lot like a typical Segall song, but one with mostly vocals, acoustic guitar and maybe some pre-ingested downers.
I’d agree that the lyrics are a weak spot, which keeps this type of album from really having lasting value. Lyrics have never really been a strong point of Segall … if you can understand them. On Sleeper, he often seems to be reaching for an easy rhyme that indeed lands him in minstrel flotsam territory. His more memorable lyrics have always tended to work better as simple, quippy bits tossed into fun fuzzfests (looking’ at you, “Imaginary Person”). Even though he gives it a fair shot on wide-open tracks like “The West,” Bob Dylan he is not. But, he’s definitely not Miley Cyrus, either. There’s something here, but it’s a bit too vague to comprehend in the long run.